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As Costs Pile Up, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas Asks Jackson County For His City's Share Of Federal COVID-19 Aid

042920_JD_Nurse Practitioner Heather Colaizzi_KCMO drive-thru COVID-19 testing_Independence Boulevard Christian Church.JPG
Julie Denesha
Heather Colaizzi, a Family Nurse Practitioner at the Samuel Rodgers Health Clinic, retrieves a sample during drive-through COVID- 19 testing in the parking lot of Independence Boulevard Christian Church on Gladstone Blvd., in Kansas City Missouri. The testing site, run by Samuel U Rodgers Health Clinic, was part of the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department's efforts to track the illness.

Jackson County received nearly $123 million in the first round of CARES Act funding, but Kansas City didn’t receive a dime.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas appealed to the Jackson County Legislature Monday for federal funding to combat COVID-19.

Jackson County received nearly $123 million under the first round of federal CARES Act funding, but Kansas City didn’t receive a dime. Only cities with populations of 500,000 or more were qualified to receive direct federal support through the act.

Based on the last census count, Kansas City fell slightly short of that 500,000-resident threshold.

Lucas asked the legislature to provide the city $54.5 million. That amount is based on the percentage of Jackson Country residents living in Kansas City: 44.5%.

In a letter to County Executive Frank White and the legislature, Lucas said as a city with its own health department, and with the second highest number of cases of COVID-19 in the metro, Kansas City merits direct funding.

“Kansas City believes this proposal to represent a fair and detailed schedule of spending to support our City’s recovery under COVID-19 and is based on U.S. Treasury guidelines for spending,” Lucas wrote.

Here’s how Lucas proposes to spend the money:

· $11.3 million for the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department to fund increased testing and contact tracing.

· $12.5 million for the police and fire departments for personal protective equipment, increased wages and overtime related to quarantines within the departments.

· $3.3 million for wide-ranging protections for city staff safety, and to cover the cost of sanitizing buildings and park equipment.

· $18 million for small businesses, including loans and technical assistance for businesses shifting to online work methods.

· $10 million for housing assistance, including relief for renters and landlords.

· $5.5 million for social service providers, such as food banks and homeless shelters.

· $1.5 million in assistance for artists and arts-based businesses.

County officials have argued against handing over a lump sum to Kansas City, arguing that they are responsible for how the funds are used and that they would be liable for any misuse of money.

Lucas says state treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick has already agreed to hold the county harmless in the event Kansas City spends the money irresponsibly. Lucas also agreed to draft a contract further holding the county harmless to give Jackson County officials an additional layer of protection.

Legislator Tony Miller wasn’t confident in that solution.

“I wish we could just open the checkbook up,” Miller said. “I just have real strong concerns about the lack of privity between the different (government) levels, but I don’t think that that should get in the way of ultimately accomplishing the public policy pieces. I think we can do it, we just have be careful how we do it.”

Lucas argued that the city already has structures in place to distribute the money efficiently to those who need it. The Economic Development Corporation, for example, could distribute loans to small businesses, and the Neighborhood Tourist and Development Fund could ensure the money gets to artists.

“So we wouldn’t necessarily need a task force or to create some new method by which we can get money to the people who need it most, the fastest,” Lucas said.

Legislative chairwoman Teresa Galvin said she hoped the county and the city could work together and noted that Kansas City isn’t the only city within Jackson County limits.

“We do have 13 other cities and townships. We all have a need here, they all have a need here and we need to address every single one of them,” Galvin said. “It doesn’t matter who writes the check as long as these people are taken care of.”

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